The third guest blog post of the winter break comes from James Parker, who I’ve had the pleasure of writing blog post with for the past few months. To read more of his brilliant work, visit the Grand Prix Merchandise Blog.
I am not going to beat around the bush here; Robert Kubica is a phenomenal racing driver, ever since his magnificent debut in 2006 at the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend, he has wowed fans not only with his talent, but his modest, spectacular personality off the circuit, one of the last true gentleman racers in Formula 1, a man who no-one can say a bad word about.
He became a secret “favourite” of mine during his time in Formula 1, encapsulating everything in what I feel a WDC should possess, he was put simply the complete package. In terms of raw talent he was up there with the best, able to wring the neck of really poor cars, and drag them into places they had no right to be. The 2010 season was perhaps best proof of that, where the pole went on to claim 10 top 6 finishes which included 3 podiums, in a car that was 5th fastest at best. This talent tied with brutal consistency, and a gentle modest personality away from the circuit made Kubica one of the most popular drivers in the paddock and that is what makes his story so sad.
Of course by the time I write this, pretty much every Motorsport fan in the world knows about those tragic events of February 2011, a horrifying incident that perhaps has robbed us of witnessing Robert achieving the success at the pinnacle of Motorsport that he deserves. Whilst it could be argued that Kubica was taking a tremendous risk rallying in the off season, and given another day could have quite easily walked away unharmed like his co-driver that day, you could never persuade a person like Robert that. He lives, breathes, eats, sleeps his passion, it is entwined into the DNA of each and every racing driver, and is the sole reason, that during the winter break of 2011, the pole needed to race, to feed that addiction that had gone missing whilst he was away from the circuit ahead of the 2012 Formula 1 season. Trying to explain that to a person outside of the Motorsport world is extremely difficult, something that racing drivers themselves find incredibly complicated to put into words, but when we see Michael Schumacher jumping straight onto a motorbike and racing at the age of 43 directly after his retirement from F1, we start to understand, it is something they simply have to do – You can take the racing driver away from the race track, but you can’t take the racing driver out of the man.
The cruel and horribly slow rehabilitation process that Robert has had to go through has been extremely well documented, fans around the entire globe creating tribute pages, showing their support for the magnificent pole, as they wait with bated breath on any news that heads our way. I have over the past 12 months written two articles surrounding Robert offering my views on the great man, documenting his progress in terms of recovery and the massive hole he leaves in the sport without his presence around the paddock. But it is perhaps the most recent news of his comeback that has become the most frightening. This week Kubica had been quoted himself as saying he could not see himself returning to Formula 1 in the near future. He is uncertain of his future in the sport and the longer this rehabilitation takes; you have to say the less likely a dream comeback will be on the cards, the pole not getting any younger as the years go by. This perhaps is the most disheartening news for not only fans of Kubica but also fans of the sport as a whole; one of the most talented racing drivers in modern history unable to attain the success he wholeheartedly deserves is surely a tremendous blow to F1 in general.
The main area of focus is still the elbow and wrist area, where Robert is still unable to
utilise full natural movement, and therefore the ability to build up strength in that part of his body is incredibly limited. Of course the reliance on the forearm and wrist area in Formula 1 is huge, not only do the arms suffer the sheer weight of G Forces, but also have to deal with constantly moving the steering wheel, adjusting settings on the wheel and are almost permanently bent during a Grand Prix, if that area is too weak or movement is limited there is no chance any driver could achieve the maximum in the car and there directly lies the problem.
This is an incredibly worrying time for the Pole, as the minimum joint movement of the elbow and wrist comes directly after a 6 month long battle with constant operations and rehabilitation, with numerous expertise at hand to try and aid the situation. Of course looking at the bigger picture here, with Robert finally admitting that he cannot see himself returning in the next couple of years, this perhaps might be a subtle suggestion to his fans that he potentially has given up on the Formula 1 dream for good, and if he does not feel he will ever recover to the standard he feels comfortable with, who’s to say otherwise?
From my personal point of view, I think it would be incredibly sad to see Robert come back before he is ready and struggle hugely in one of the most competitive grids in F1 history. His talent and potential deserves far more than that in terms of success, as does Kubica the man. So if he potentially can never see himself getting fit enough to return, I would prefer him not to return at all, therefore protecting us fans from witnessing a once great of the sport being reduced to pity and sadness from fans over an unsuccessful comeback – much like we have seen with Michael Schumacher over these past three seasons. What could he of achieved had that fateful day not taken place on February 6th 2011?
Well at the time of his accident, Robert had already established himself as one of the “Big 4” alongside the likes of Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel, the only thing halting his success the machinery he had at his disposal compared to his rivals. At that point in time though I feel we saw the best of Kubica and the struggling BMW Sauber days allowed him to mature hugely as a driver. By the end of 2010 he was ready to assault the championship with all his might and that is mostly why Ferrari were so interested in hiring him for 2013 – the potential was there for every other team on the grid to see and Renault would have surely had a difficult job keeping him at Enstone. But then when we look at the other side of the story and he had pledged his allegiance to Lotus F1, him and Kimi would have surely made an incredibly partnership for the 2012 season, perhaps one of the strongest if not the strongest on paper given both drivers previous reputations.
What Robert had ahead of him was a hugely promising Formula 1 career at the very top of Motorsport. I would have bet my house on him winning a WDC during his career had he not suffered that torrid setback last year, and that perhaps to many a Formula 1 fan is the biggest regret of all, that incredible talent surely going to go to waste, unable to write his own story in the history books of Formula 1.
Whilst this is an incredibly sad situation, what we cannot forget is that Kubica has returned to Motorsport, although it is in the exact discipline in which he succumbed to his injuries – Rallying. But what I think that shows is the sheer determination Robert has in order to satisfy that passion of his, willing to take that risk once again, proving he has lost none of that previous bravery or commitment he portrayed behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car. Having been hugely successful in the national rallies he has competed in so far in the latter part of 2012, you would have to say, it appears that natural raw ability that bought him so many admirers did not disappear with what looks like his Formula 1 dream back in 2011, the question just remains…. will he ever return?
By James Parker